The Story of The Harvey Murders

Author: Unknown

Publication Date: 1965

Edited: 2021


The demolition of the house at 284 Woolwich Street early in the realm of January 1965 will recall to many Guelphites the dramatic events that took place there on Tuesday, March 26, 1889. On that morning, William Harvey, an accountant at J. W. Lyon’s, who in danger of being arrested for embezzlement of f-s [sic] from the World Publishing Company, went to Bond’s Hardware on St. George’s Square, and purchased a revolver and bullets, charging the purchase of them to Mr. Lyon. Then, he went home, called his daughters from Miss Hayward’s school across the road, shot both of them, and then shot his wife, killing all three of them. He went to Galt, took train to Toronto with the intentions, apparently, of dispatching his 17-year-old son, who was working there. He was apprehended by the police just as he was approaching his son. He was arrested for the murder of his wife and kids.


After a trial at which Harvey was found guilty, he was hanged in the yard of the court house at 8:04 A.M. November 29, 1889. The gallows were placed in the south-west angle of the jail yard by the wall. The job was bungled because the counterbalance weight was not heavy enough nor the drop long enough to crack the wretched man’s neck. He strangled to death. There were about 75 present to watch the hanging as well as many boys and men in trees. This was the last public hanging in Guelph. The names of the four other men hanged before Harvey are included in the newspaper account of his hanging.

They were:

1. Charles Coghlin, hanged July 1, 1847.
2. Joseph Ferris, hanged June 26, 1848.
3. Geo. Harris, hanged Dec. 21, 1860.
4. Henry White, hanged Dec. 30, 1875.